Katja Maass, from Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg in Germany has written an interesting article about “How can teachers’ beliefs affect their professional development?” The article was recently published online in ZDM. In her article, Maass presents results from a sub-project in the international LEMA project. The qualitative study described in this article included interviews of six teachers who participated in a professional development course. The data were coded based on principles from Grounded Theory, and the author provides a nice description of the different stages in the coding process. The results are also presented in a nice and illustrative way, and her theoretical foundation includes a nice overview of research on beliefs. As part of her concluding discussion, Maass argues that the beliefs influence the implementation, and she also points to previous research which argues that beliefs are resistant to change. In other words, the challenge remains.
Here is the abstract of the article:
This paper describes a qualitative study that examines in more detail the question of how teachers’ beliefs may influence the intention to implement change as suggested by a professional development initiative. Several teachers in Germany took part in a professional development initiative for modelling. The course comprised five workshops spread over 2008. A part of our evaluation of the course involved interviewing six teachers after they had taken part. Teachers were interviewed about the impact the course had had on them, the opportunities and any related impediments they saw for modelling, and the way in which they typically taught. The interviews were evaluated using codes. Although the sample is very small, the cases allow for interesting insights, and for the hypotheses that teachers’ beliefs about effective teaching seem to have a major impact on whether or not they intend to change their classroom practice, as suggested by the professional development initiative, and on whether or not teachers perceive the context in which they are teaching (school head, parents, students, etc.) as supportive.
Keith Leatham from Brigham Young University in Utah, U.S., is one of the scholars who have made important contribution to research of teachers’ beliefs in mathematics education research in the last couple of years. I very much like his proposed framework for viewing teachers’ beliefs as sensible systems (from his 2006 article in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education). Now he has written a new article with focus on beliefs (or this time it is referred to as perceptions), and he has co-written this article with a colleague from Brigham Young University: Blake E. Peterson. Their article is entitled Secondary mathematics cooperating teachers’ perceptions of the purpose of student teaching, and it was published online in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education last week. Here is their article abstract:
This article reports on the results of a survey of 45 secondary mathematics cooperating teachers’ perceptions of the primary purposes of student teaching and their roles in accomplishing those purposes. The most common purposes were interacting with an experienced, practising teacher, having a real classroom experience, and experiencing and learning about classroom management. The most common roles were providing the space for experience, modeling, facilitating reflection, and sharing knowledge. The findings provided insights into the cooperating teachers’ perceptions about both what should be learned through student teaching and how it should be learned. These findings paint a picture of cooperating teachers who do not see themselves as teacher educators—teachers of student teachers. Implications for mathematics teacher educators are discussed.
Dionne I. Cross has written an article called Alignment, cohesion, and change: Examining mathematics teachers’ belief structures and their influence on instructional practices. This article was recently published online in Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education. Here is the abstract of the article:
This collective case study reports on an investigation into the relationship between mathematics teachers’ beliefs and their classroom practices, namely, how they organized their classroom activities, interacted with their students, and assessed their students’ learning. Additionally, the study examined the pervasiveness of their beliefs in the face of efforts to incorporate reform-oriented classroom materials and instructional strategies. The participants were five high school teachers of ninth-grade algebra at different stages in their teaching career. The qualitative analysis of the data revealed that in general beliefs were very influential on the teachers’ daily pedagogical decisions and that their beliefs about the nature of mathematics served as a primary source of their beliefs about pedagogy and student learning. Findings from the analysis concur with previous studies in this area that reveal a clear relationship between these constructs. In addition, the results provide useful insights for the mathematics education community as it shows the diversity among the inservice teachers’ beliefs (presented as hypothesized belief models), the role and influence of beliefs about the nature of mathematics on the belief structure and how the teachers designed their instructional practices to reflect these beliefs. The article concludes with a discussion of implications of teacher education.